Highest and lowest CTs done thus far
- Ben Nevis, Top of Inverness-shire/Highland (4,413 ft/1,345m a.s.l.), done as number 2. As the highest mountain in Britain, this will, obviously, always be at the top of this list.
- Ben Lawers, Perthshire/Perth and Kinross (3,983 ft/1,214m), #39. 3rd CT by altitude. (Pictured above)
- Glas Maol, Angus (3,504 ft/1,068m), #38. 7th by altitude.
- Merrick, Kirkcudbrightshire/Dumfries and Galloway (2,766 ft/843m), #48. 19th by altitude.
- Cadair Berwyn, Denbighshire (2,726 feet/830m), #54. 21st by altitude.
The top four are in Scotland, and Cadair Berwyn is Welsh. The highest English Top I have done so far is Burnhope Seat (Durham) at 2,447 ft/746m.
- Stock Hill, City of York (144ft/44m), #57. 196th by altitude. [Pictured below]
- Telegraph, Isles of Scilly (167ft/51m). #64. 194th by altitude.
- Racecourse Road, Peterborough (266ft/81m), #22. 186th by altitude.
- Woolton Hill, City of Liverpool (292ft/89m), #25. 181st by altitude,
- Saxby Wold, North Lincolnshire (335ft/102m), #20. 177th by altitude.
All are English. The lowest non-English Top done so far is Dundee Law (571ft/174m).
Longest and shortest walks
It’s difficult to measure distances precisely. Simple trigonometry means that ‘as the crow flies’ distances calculated from the map will be underestimates of how far you actually walk. On the other hand, pedometers, that measure steps rather than distance, can often overestimate things particularly on rough ground. All distances on this site are therefore approximations, based on each of these sources and a general gut feeling.
Bearing all that in mind these are the longest and shortest walks I’ve undertaken so far:
- Ben Nevis, Inverness-shire/Highland; 15.2 miles/24.5km (walk 2).
- Warden Law, Sunderland; 15 miles/24km (walk 30 – pictured).
- Saxby Wold, North Lincolnshire; 13.25 miles/21.5km (walk 20).
- Black Hill, Cheshire/Kirklees; 12.4 miles/20km (walk 10).
- Blackstone Edge, Rochdale; 12.4 miles/20km (walk 24).
With both of the last two Tops, I walked to them twice; these are the longer versions of each.
- Stock Hill, City of York; 3 miles/4.8km (walk 57).
- Diana’s Peak, St Helena: 3.1 miles/5km (walk 62½).
- West Lomond, Fife: 3.4 miles/5/5km (walk 62).
- Dundee Law, Dundee City; 3.9 miles/6.25km (walk 33 — see the banner image for this page).
- Heaton Park, Manchester (walk 40), Brimmond Hill, Aberdeen (walk 51) and The Ashes, Lincolnshire – Parts of Kesteven (walk 61), all at 4 miles/6.4km.
Note that with both Stock Hill and West Lomond, I intended to undertake a longer walk. With Stock Hill my intended route was blocked, and on West Lomond I had to turn back because of bad weather (though I still made the summit).
Most and least climbing on average
Crudely dividing the feet of ascent for each walk (an approximation) by the walk distance (another approximation) gives a rough estimate of the average climbing per mile walked. Forgive me, but I haven’t done the metric versions of these calculations.
Way ahead on the steepest scale is the climb up Ben Lawers (walk 39): 3,085 feet of ascent in 7.5 miles, or about 440 feet/mile, followed by West Lomond (walk 62 – pictured) at 376.5 ft/mile and Glas Maol (walk 38), at about 363 feet/mile. Ben Nevis, which is the walk with the most climbing (4,340 feet), comes only 8th on this list.
The flattest walk so far was that of Woolton Hill, the Top of Liverpool (walk 25): 10.25 miles but only 200 feet of ascent, so only 19.5 feet/mile. Runners-up: Stock Hill (walk 57), 25 ft/mile and Saxby Wold (walk 20), with about 30 feet/mile.
Characteristics of a great summit are that it is a neat, prominent top with an excellent view. Rockiness helps too, but it’s not a deal breaker. The following, in chronological order of my visits, are the best ones so far:
- Ben Cleuch, Clackmannanshire (done as number 5)
- The Wrekin, Telford and Wrekin (#17)
- Blackstone Edge, Rochdale (#24)
- Moel Famau, Flintshire (#34) — pictured.
- Diana’s Peak, St Helena (#62½).
Ben Lawers would probably have made this list if the weather had been better and I’d seen the view. Of lower-altitude summits, Dundee Law deserves plaudits (certainly this is the best urban Top thus far), as do Billinge Hill and Holyhead Mountain.
There are various definitions of an ‘urban’ Top. The Great Reorganisation (of counties) in 1974 created an administrative divide, in England anyway, between ‘ordinary’ counties and what are termed the ‘metropolitan boroughs’ covering the big urban conurbations, like Greater Manchester, London, Newcastle/Sunderland, etc. Over time the major Scottish cities have also separated out, administratively, and other parts of the country, like South Wales and the ‘Home Counties’ around London are also now divided up into local authorities that are much smaller than the old counties and more densely populated.
However, just because a territory is classed as ‘metropolitan’ doesn’t mean it’s all filled with houses, or is of low elevation. Of the 1974 English metropolitan boroughs, the one with the highest point is Kirklees, which reaches 1,909ft/582m at Black Hill (pictured). But there’s a case for considering the Welsh Top of Craig y Llyn (1,969ft/600m) as representing an urban authority (two in fact — Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taff), not to mention the highest candidate of all, Craig Berwyn (2,592ft/790m), the top of Wrexham.
But as the picture makes clear, many of these Tops are not ‘urban’ in a practical sense. If one takes the term as meaning a Top completely surrounded by housing, then the highest one is probably Turner’s Hill (889ft/271m) in Sandwell.
Of the walks I have completed, the least rural of all was that to Mapperley, summit of Nottingham (walk #37). Dundee Law, City of Dundee (#33) was almost all done in the midst of housing but here, the summit was more exposed.
Clare and Joe have also done, in order: Allestree Park, Derby (#12); Racecourse Road, Peterborough (#22); Beacon Hill, Norfolk (#23); Corse Hill, East Renfrewshire (#32); Dundee Law, Dundee (#33).
Clare has done, without Joe, The Wrekin, Telford and Wrekin (#17), Woolley Edge, Wakefield (#28), Bushey Heath, Middlesex (#44), Craig Airie Fell, Wigtownshire (#47 – pictured) and The Ashes, Lincolnshire – Parts of Kesteven (#61).
The other one I did not do alone was Ben Nevis, Inverness-shire, Highland (#2): here I was accompanied by my sister, Vicki Lee.
Tops I’d definitely done at least once, before starting on the project:
- Scafell Pike (Cumberland/Cumbria) – 2012 and 2018
- Helvellyn (Westmorland) – when I was 9 years old, and in 2011
- Coniston Old Man (Lancashire [historic]) – 2010 and 2017
- Whernside (W. Riding of Yorkshire/North Yorkshire) – 1994
- Whitehorse Hill (Oxfordshire [modern]) – 1995, ish
- Liddington Castle (Swindon) – 1990
- Ditchling Beacon (East Sussex) – in the 80s sometime
- East Cairn Hill (Edinburgh) – 2017
- Le Moulin (Guernsey) – 2018 — the picture here is taken more-or-less on this Top.
I’ve possibly been to the summit of Hampstead Heath (County of London) in the past, but honestly don’t remember for sure.
Names of Tops
Only one Top name is duplicated exactly, that being Beacon Hill — there is one of these in Norfolk, and the other is the Top of Torbay. Although a case can also be made for Ben More (Stirling) and Ben More Assynt (Sutherland), not to mention Morvern (Caithness), which are all basically the same name — Beinn Mhor being the Gaelic for ‘Big Mountain’. In Morvern’s name the two words are just swapped around.
No Top names begin with the letters J, O, U, V, X, Y or Z. The unique initial letters are I (Innerdouny Hill, Kinross-shire) and Q (Quarry Hill, Middlesbrough).
The most common letter that begins a Top name is, by far, B — there are no fewer than 43 of these, or nearly 22% of the total, including the nine ‘Bens’ and the seven ‘Blacks’ (like Blackstone Edge, pictured).
The shortest Top name is Werfa, Bridgend, at five letters. There are several with seven letters.
The longest is Twyn Ffynhonnay Goerion, Blaenau Gwent, at 21 letters. Worcestershire Beacon, Worcestershire and (though this is an ‘unofficial’ name) Butterfield Green Road, Luton are runners-up, each with 20 letters.
If you don’t yet think this has been a rather unnecessarily geeky page, here’s the final discussion: unless you really are a geography geek feel free to skip it…
While bored one afternoon, I set out to ascertain which Tops lay on the principal watersheds of the island of Great Britain.
Watersheds are not imaginary, nor are they vague. By the laws of physics they must exist, as water can only run downhill, so in the high parts of any landscape there must be specific lines, on one side of which the water will run one way, and on the other side, the other way. All river basins are separated by watersheds, and in Britain, which is basically triangular (for these purposes let’s forget about its very short north coast), there are three principal ones: the watersheds that separate drainage into the Irish Sea/Atlantic (west) — the North Sea (east) — and the English Channel (south).
However, just because the line exists does not mean it is always easy to trace on a map. Often it is marked by county boundaries, e.g. the historic one between Yorkshire and Lancashire, or Dumfriesshire and other counties. But by no means always. In the midst of the West Midlands conurbation, for instance, or where there is chalk or limestone (and a consequent lack of open waterways) it is more a matter of guesswork. Artificial drains, leats and canals also obscure the picture in places. However, the following is my best effort.
EAST/WEST: This watershed begins to resolve itself around Milk Hill (Wiltshire), the closest CT to the intersection of these three main sides of the island of Britain. Heading north we have Cleeve Hill (Gloucestershire — pictured above), Arbury Hill in Northamptonshire, but then nothing else definite until Black Hill (which may in fact miss by a few yards) and Blackstone Edge (Rochdale) nearby, which is definitely on it (allowing for nearby artificial drains). Nothing north of this, surprisingly, until Culter Fell (S. Lanarkshire). Then Garrel Hill (North Lanarkshire) and Ben Lomond (Stirlingshire).
But that’s it. A few miss by maybe a half mile or so: e.g. Ben More Assynt, White Coomb [pictured], Kinder Scout, Cheeks Hill and Rednal Hill — all very close but not actually on the watershed.
WEST/SOUTH: As far as I can tell there is not a single CT on the ‘west/south’ watershed that runs from (roughly) Milk Hill down to Lands’ End. Dunkery Beacon (Somerset) and Brown Willy (Cornwall) are close, but again, no cigar.
EAST/SOUTH (basically, does the water go into the English Channel, or the Thames/Medway): chalk obscures things slightly but it would seem surprising if Walbury Hill (West Berkshire) and Pilot Hill (Hampshire) were not on the watershed. Leith Hill (Surrey) is definitely on it. But that’s all, heading east.
Thus — a total of only 10 CTs lie firmly on the three principal watersheds of Great Britain, and they are
- Cleeve Hill
- Arbury Hill
- Blackstone Edge
- Black Hill (awarded through a judge’s ruling but possibly a few yards off)
- Culter Fell
- Garrel Hill
- Ben Lomond
- Walbury Hill (probably)
- Pilot Hill (again, probably)
- Leith Hill.
Milk Hill gets the ‘three-way’ award but it may not be right on this point: which to repeat, must exist as a very specific and unique spot.